Bigfoot, the rubber gorilla suit and a mammoth hoax
Published 20/08/2008 | 09:29
It was hailed as "definitive evidence" that Bigfoot existed. The discovery of "something large, hairy and frozen in ice" in woods in America by a heroic police officer made international headlines and attracted interest from a team who have been earnestly searching for the legendary ape-like beast for years.
They purchased the remains for an undisclosed fee and set about the delicate process of thawing the body. So it is hard to imagine just how disappointing it must have been to discover, not Sasquatch, but a rubber gorilla suit.
Steve Kulls, of Squatchdetective.com and host of Squatchdetective Radio, revealed the bad news: Matt Whitton, a police officer on leave after being shot while on duty, and Rick Dyer, a former Georgia corrections officer, had achieved fame on a global scale with a hoax of breathtaking transparency.
As they held a much publicised press conference in California on 15 August about their alleged discovery in the wooded hills of Georgia, near a remote region where sightings of the creature are often reported, Whitton had insisted: "Everyone who has talked down to us is going to eat their words."
The pair, who were offering weekend Bigfoot tracking expeditions for about £250, described the creature as a 7ft 7in, male, weighing over 560lb (255kg), with huge human-like feet and reddish hair.
Hundreds of thousands watched videos of the remains posted on YouTube. People started to believe.
Mr Kulls said: "A police officer of seven years, on medical leave, labelled as a hero for being wounded in the line of duty, got up in front of the world and told the world of how he and Mr Dyer uncovered this creature," he said.
"On August 16, the freezer containing the alleged corpse arrived with the Searching For Bigfoot Team.
"The ice was being thawed slowly without aid, to prevent any decomposition of the alleged corpse. We estimated that the freezer and its contents weighed over 1,500lbs and it would take several days or longer to thaw completely.
"The following day we were up early to discover that some hair was now exposed. I extracted some from the alleged corpse, examined it and had some concerns."
The team decided to burn a sample which they said "melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair".
"We began an expedited melting process. Within one hour we were able to see the partially exposed head... I was able to feel that it seemed mostly firm, but unusually hollow in one small section. This was yet another ominous sign," Mr Kulls said.
"Within the next hour of thaw, a break appeared up near the feet area. As the team and I began examining this area near the feet, I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot.
"Later that day, we were informed that Mr Whitton and Mr Dyer had admitted it was a costume."
Phone calls to Whitton and Dyer went unreturned yesterday, but a voicemail recording for their Bigfoot Tip Line, which also proclaims they are searching for leprechauns and the Loch Ness monster, has been updated with the information about a new search for "big cats and dinosaurs".
"If you see any of those, give us a call," it says.